Two South Carolina residents become the first Americans to have the South African “Super Covid” variant, which could affect vaccine effectiveness, state health department officials confirmed Thursday.
Neither person has a “known” recent travel history and they have no obvious connection to one another as far as health authorities can judge.
This is a worrying signal that the 50 percent more infectious variant has already spread silently in South Carolina, if not the United States.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was more concerned about the South African variant than the UK B117 super-Covid variant as the South African form has mutations that could affect vaccine effectiveness.
Both Moderna and Pfizer said this week that preliminary laboratory tests suggest their vaccines “protect” against the variant, but this makes their shots less effective.
Each company has announced plans to develop booster shots to improve the effectiveness of their vaccines against variants, including those from South Africa.
All three international “worrying varieties” – from the UK (pink and red states), Brazil (fuschia prickly ball), and South Africa (purple prickly ball) – are now in the US, as well as at least four native varieties (other prickly balls)
Dr. Anthony Fauci called the South African variant “more worrying” than others last week, before he or other US officials became aware of US cases
The South African variant has a mutation in its spike protein (circled in yellow) that makes it more contagious, re-infectable, and possibly more immune to vaccines. Two people in South Carolina are the first US cases, but since they haven’t traveled recently and have no obvious connection, the variant may already be spreading in the US
“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder for all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Public Health Director.
‘While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, the supply is still limited. Each of us must rededicate ourselves to the fight, realizing that we are all now on the front lines. We’re all in the same boat.’
One person lives in the easternmost “Pee Dee” region of the state, while the other lives in the “Lowcountry” region in the south.
The two are both adults, but the state health department announced that it will not release any further details of their identities in order to protect their privacy.
Neither person had a travel history known to the South Carolina Health Department and raised concerns that there are more cases in the United States. The variant has already been imported and distributed.
The US has stumbled upon its race to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19 – but early research suggests none of the shots available in the US against the South African variant are as effective as against older wild-type forms of coronavirus circulating in the US